Photos: Jack Hoy

This squirrel with odd white patches has been seen recently in Jack and Sharon Hoy’s yard. Chris Johnson from UNBC says it might be an example of leucism, or a reduction in the amount of pigmentation in an animal, either in spots or all over.

Dr. Karl Larsen, professor of Wildlife Ecology Management at Thompson Rivers University says it is simply a colour variant of the normal North American red squirrel. “Every once in a while, an almost-white animal turns up,” says Larsen. “It is just an individual that for some reason is displaying odd colouration.”

But Ken Otter, Professor of Biology at UNBC, explained it a little more fully. He says that animals like this can make melanin, which is responsible for the coloring in skin, fur, feathers and eyes. It is not albino – individuals with albinism can’t actually make melanin at all, which also results in pink eyes. (Otter says there was also a reported case a few years ago of a totally black red squirrel, which is called “complete melanism.”) But what this animal may be lacking is the genes to deposit melanin in the fur as it is growing through the outer layer of skin.